Danced topographies: A study of dynamic relationships between place and movement through choreography and sociology

Plan Author

  • Kenyon Acton, 2011

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Tutorial: Locating the Tango, Dance-based Community
  • Course: Anatomy of Movement
  • Course: Choreography Seminar
  • Course: Introduction to Literacy Genres; Spain, Latin America, Eduatorial Guinea

Project Description

A study exploring the relationship of place, performance, and social dance.

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Elizabeth Sayler, Owner, Tango Wise


No matter what the medium, global art forms always develop regional and cultural variants. This is especially true of social dances, which requires active participation from their communities to exist. Popular social dance forms, like the lindyhop and contra, often develop so many regional variants that their “authentic” version becomes hard to define. Drawing on the author’s experience travelling to Buenos Aires for the Tango World Cup, this Plan looks at authentic dance through the diversity of tango and examines efforts by dancers and the government of Argentina to define an authentic version.

As a major cultural commodity and tourist attraction, tango is especially important to the Argentinian government. To increase its ability to commoditize tango culture, the government has instituted laws that promote traditional forms of the dance, including one that requires milongas to play at least 70% traditional tango music. While these laws help establish Argentina as tango’s homeland, they often put the government at odds with the country’s vibrant and innovative tango community. The author’s Plan performance, Hallways to Harbors, draws on her study of place, dance, and community to create a collaborative, site-specific performance.


“From its immigrant roots to its global appeal, tango reflects the mobility of culture in the last century. It is this mobility that simultaneously globalizes and localizes tango.”

“From the beginning of my tango experience – walking 16 blocks through the center of Buenos Aires to find the end of the line for tickets to the Buenos Aires Tango Festival – it was clear to me that there existed a consumer culture of tango in Buenos Aires. I began to consider how the development of tourism had impacted the city and the tango industry.”

The government of Buenos Aires has embraced tango as a national symbol, and is building the infrastructure to realize it. The adoption of tango advertises Buenos Aires in global arenas, creating a reflexive construction of place between Buenos Aires and the global community.”


“In the Senior Dance Plan Group Tutorial, I worked with Marlboro’s dance professor and other senior dance students to learn how to give and receive artistic feedback, develop choreography, plan shows, and bring our ideas to paper.”